Many discussions of automotive history center around what historians call “counterfactuals”: trying to envision what might have happened if certain things had turned out differently than they did in actual fact. For automotive enthusiasts, this often boils down to a simple question: “Why didn’t they just … ?” The answers are often equally simple — and sometimes depressingly mundane. In this editorial, I’ll talk a little about the most common reasons enthusiasts’ favorite counterfactuals never came to pass, which also reveals some of the general lessons I’ve learned about the auto business through my years of doing Ate Up With Motor.
Continue Reading A Thousand Reasons Why Not: On Automotive Counterfactuals
As some visitors are aware, I used to have an Ate Up With Motor Page on Facebook, which was deactivated when I closed my Facebook account for good in December 2018. I had thought that I retained an offline copy of all the data from the Page, but I recently discovered that I was mistaken, and in fact I actually retain very little of the content, comments, and messages from that Page. Since my account has long since been removed, it’s much too late for me to try to download that data again.
How that happened is a long, dumb story, but the bottom line is that if you sent me messages through the Ate Up With Motor Page on Facebook, left comments or posted on the Page, and/or shared media there, it is likely that I no longer retain or have access to that data. I retain a smattering of information in the form of old notification emails (and some bits and pieces of information that I saved or recorded separately for some specific reason, such as if someone provided research suggestions or article corrections), and I DO have an archive of comments and messages I sent or received directly (that is, as Aaron Severson rather than as Ate Up With Motor), but that’s about it. While people did sometimes share car photos and/or videos on the Ate Up With Motor Page, I made a point of NOT downloading offline copies of media from the Page unless the photographers had expressly authorized me to use their images on the Ate Up With Motor website (and I didn’t always get around to it even then, for which I’m now kicking myself).
It seems likely that Facebook still retains at least some of that information — for instance, if you are a Facebook user and left comments on the Ate Up With Motor Page, the comments are probably still listed in your activity history. Questions about the extent to which Facebook may retain such data, or what options you may have for accessing or deleting it, should be directed to Facebook, as that is beyond my control. (I almost certainly lack the legal standing to compel Facebook to delete someone else’s data.)
ETA: I have also discovered that the archive I’d made of the long-defunct Ate Up With Motor LiveJournal blog was no longer accessible. Again, I may retain certain related information in other forms (e.g., notification emails), but most of the data has now been deleted, and the blog itself was purged in 2014. I don’t know if LiveJournal retains information about comments or messages still-active users sent to blogs that have since been purged; I haven’t used that service in many years because I refuse to accept their current TOS, the only binding version of which is in Russian.
Although I still don’t know what the future holds for me or Ate Up With Motor, I HAVE now renewed the domain registration for another year. Sometime in the next five weeks, I still need to renew the fictitious business name registration (which has to be done every five years and costs something in the vicinity of $40, including the fee to have the renewal form notarized) and shortly to renew the SSL certificate, but I have taken at least that step. [ETA, March 4: I’ve now renewed both the fictitious business name registration and the SSL certificate.]
Among the various challenges Ate Up With Motor faces in the new year is that I need to find a different WordPress theme, as the one I’ve been using since 2020 is apparently no longer being updated. If anyone has any suggestions of non-premium WordPress themes that (a) would allow me to retain something close to the current layout, (b) are reasonably suitable for current mobile devices, and — crucially — (c) don’t rely on external resources like Google Hosted Libraries, I would be eager to hear them.
(I won’t voluntarily use Google Fonts, but I’m particularly nervous about themes that rely on CDN-hosted scripts, which are harder to remove. Google Fonts can be replaced through a child theme style sheet if the theme’s structure isn’t too cumbersome — it’s notably easier in some themes than others — but switching scripts and icon sets from embedded to local resources can require recreating half of the damned theme, which is troublesome.)
I imagine that some of you have been wondering, “Whatever happened to Ate Up With Motor? Is it dead or something?” If you are curious about this subject, you’ll find an explanation under the cut.
Continue Reading Whatever Happened to Ate Up With Motor?
I just made another technical update that I’m hoping won’t break anything.
Many of the links on the site are designed to open in a new browser tab or window. This is sometimes convenient, but can apparently be exploited for an obnoxious browser hijack unless you add a special attribute to the link (rel=”noopener”). I’ve attempted to add that throughout the site, which should not affect any normal function — unless I made a syntax error somewhere, in which case there may be some broken links.
If you find a link that doesn’t work or does something weird, please let me know! You can reach me through the Contact Form or by leaving a comment on the item where you found the bad link. Thanks for your patience.
Ate Up With Motor has lots of photos. Most of them were taken in public places, sometimes by people other than me — at car shows, on the street, and so forth. Inevitably, some of those photos have people in the background. Now, generally, under U.S. law, this kind of editorial usage is not a big deal, since people in public places usually don’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”; otherwise, newspapers and news shows could never run crowd shots. However, under the EU’s new GDPR directive and associated local law, any recognizable image of a natural person may be considered personally identifying information, which becomes messy.
The plain reality is this: I usually do not have any reasonable way to know the identities of people who may be visible in the backgrounds of photos (especially in big crowds), nor am I usually able to associate their images with any other information I might have about them. If you’re a regular visitor to Ate Up With Motor and you popped up in the background of some photo taken at a car show five years ago, I probably don’t know it! Also, while some photographers make an effort to obscure the faces of bystanders — I started doing this with my own photos about seven years ago — that isn’t always possible, or successful. (I’ve seen a number of photos where the photographer or editor overlooked the face of someone leaning out a window in the background or something like that.) If a photo isn’t mine, I may not have the right to modify it in that way, and even if I do, the original online source may still have the unmodified, un-obscured original. There’s not usually anything I can do about that.
So, if you have a previously published comment you’d like to change or remove, the simplest thing to do is to reply to it, asking me to change or delete it. Your reply goes into the moderation queue, so I will see the request and can easily figure out which comment you’re talking about.
If you ask for an edit rather than a deletion, just please try to be clear whether you want me to publish your reply or just change the original comment.
Throughout this week and perhaps for at least the next few days, you may encounter some odd stuff on Ate Up With Motor, such as different privacy notice banners. This is because I’m still trying to update things for greater compliance with the European GDPR rules taking effect on Friday. Unfortunately, there is no one plugin or tool that provides all the functionality I need, and many are in a rudimentary state as their developers scramble to get them working properly as half the world’s WordPress users have a simultaneous meltdown. Some of the work therefore involves a high level of technical complexity that is at the ragged limits of my understanding (if the phrase “function hooks” leaves you scratching your head, you’re not alone!). Some things I don’t know how to do, and entities to whom I’ve reached out with technical support questions are all swamped. I’m hoping that by next week, I’ll have it in some kind of workable order, but there’s an awful lot. My apologies for the inconvenience!
Continue Reading Further Business
The other night, I was browsing through Brian Heiler’s Plaid Stallions website, as one does, and had a minor epiphany. When I wrote about the FWD GMC Motor Home a few years ago, I mentioned that it had been part of the Mattel Hot Wheels line for a while, but I neglected to mention that it had also been the basis for the ne plus ultra of seventies girls’ toys: Mattel’s Barbie Star Traveler Motor Home. Blogger Laura Moncur has previously written about her Star Traveler toy and how it even tempted her to invest in the real thing.
Brian Heiler also noted a particularly obscure connection: Mattel used what were clearly the same molds as the Star Traveler for the Big Jim Super Car, part of another, now largely forgotten seventies toy line.
I’ve also clarified that although Google Analytics has a User-ID tool that can attempt to identify a unique user across devices, I have deliberately never enabled that tool. I’ve now disabled the setting to include the Users metric in the analytics reports. (I’ve never looked at that tab in the reports, so I’m not entirely sure if it was even putting anything there with User-ID turned off.)
To be candid, I am not comfortable with online tracking and analytics services except of the most rudimentary sort. I need to know aggregate data — e.g., how many people visited the site last month — and it’s often helpful for me to see where referral traffic is coming from, but I don’t consider it appropriate or ethical for websites to develop behavioral profiles of their users. I’m a writer, not an intelligence officer or a cop!
If you have any questions about the policy or Ate Up With Motor’s use of analytics, please let me know via comment or the Contact Form. Also, if you have specific concerns or recommendations regarding Google Analytics settings (which I must confess are often at the ragged edge of my technical understanding), I am certainly open to suggestions.